FORTUNE'S ROCKS by Anita Shreve


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Shreve’s seventh novel (Pilot’s Wife, 1998, etc.) is a pleasantly atmospheric fin-de-siäcle tale of high-society adultery, in which love ultimately triumphs for a gorgeously written heroine who seems to belong in a different century. At a time when women don—t show their ankles in public, Olympia Biddeford embarks on a summer 1899 idyll on the New Hampshire shore. With grace and understatement, Shreve evokes 15-year-old Olympia’s emerging sexuality, her family cottage on Fortune’s Rocks, and the bright, sea-clean season. The perfect complement to the heroine’s enchanted world is Dr. John Haskell, a physician and writer who provides care to the poor of a nearby mill town. Despite his wife and children, Haskell and Olympia fall in love and are soon caught in flagrante. Disgraced, the Biddeford family leaves Fortune’s Rocks for Boston, where Olympia discovers she is pregnant. She gives birth, the child is taken to an orphanage, and Olympia is exiled to a western Massachusetts convent. Olympia eventually returns to the cottage at Fortune’s Rocks to rebuild her life. She seeks out and finds her lost son, and files a suit to recover him. The trial (a very ’90s concoction, with ethnic and class conflict at its heart) is stirring, and though Olympia wins—the adoptive parents are too grubby to raise the boy correctly’she refuses the victory when she sees their pain. Haskell returns from his exile in the West, where he has been treating immigrants and Native Americans, to find Olympia’s love for him still strong. They marry, and, sensing the distant strains of political correctness, convert the cottage into a birthing center for unmarried women. Olympia leaps out in sharp focus from the first page, but the conscientiously tangled plotting and the muddle it provokes in her show the strain of transplanting a millenial sensibility back a hundred years.($200,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: Dec. 2nd, 1999
ISBN: 0-316-78101-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2000


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